It takes pluck to grow up with a name like
Hildur. For Isabella Boylston, born Hildur
Isabella, it was just a part of her unconventional, free-spirited upbringing. Her parents
met on a ski lift in Sun Valley, Idaho. Her
father, Mike, was a country/blues drummer and “ski bum”; her mother, Cornelia, a
Swedish electrical engineer. They fell in love
and got married, raising two kids in a trailer
in Sun Valley, with frequent road-trips to her
dad’s shows in “crappy towns,” as Boylston,
now 30, puts it. “It was totally Wild West,” she
adds, with an easy laugh. She was named after
an Icelandic great-grandmother (“a cool lady”)
and had never thought of changing her name
until a company director planted the seed.
Isabella Boylston—it does roll off the tongue.
“I think growing up with an unusual name
shaped my personality in a way,” she reflected
just days before the start of American Ballet
Theatre’s fall season.
She may be right. Isabella Boylston—or
Bella, as just about everyone now seems to call
her—is one of the most strikingly individual
dancers in the company, or anywhere. She’s
musical, she has great facility and strong technique, but, really, what one notices most is the
boldness and joy of her dancing.
Three key moments come to mind: first,
her debut in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Bright
Stream, in 2011 when she was still in the
corps. In this spoof of Soviet-style ballets, she
played a haughty Moscow ballerina who visits
a collective farm during a harvest festival. In
the midst of a raucous ensemble, Boylston
rocketed onstage with the propulsion and
elevation of a torpedo. Who is that everyone
wondered, scrambling for the program.
Drool-worthy facility. Gutsy spirit. Old-fashioned approach.
American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston
dances with a boldness that’s all her own.
BY MARINA HARSS